1866. Brother Mendel discovers epigenetic effects in chickens

8 May 2011

“Gentlemen, let me recap. Chickens will not eat in the dark…

My experiment involved comparing chickens that had been reared in conditions with regular exposure to daylight, with those that had been reared in unpredictable light conditions. These unpredictable light conditions were produced simply by covering the chicken coop with a tarpaulin at random times of day. Note however that I made sure both sets of chickens were exposed to the same total amount of daylight – this involved leaving a tarpaulin on the east chicken coop in the mornings to compensate. 

 Now, those chickens exposed to unpredictable lighting conditions, gentlemen, grew more quickly, and became fatter than those in a predictable environment. Why? Because they would feed more quickly, not knowing when they’d be able to feed again. So far, a common sense discovery – but useful knowledge perhaps for our farmers. 

 However, what is not so obvious, is that the chickens reared in an unpredictable environment, an environment which caused them to alter their feeding behaviour and become plump, begat offspring which had the same behaviour, and were similarly plump – even when the offspring had never been exposed to the unpredictable environment themselves.

 Here then, we see proof that habits, and anatomy –  acquired by the parents in their lifetimes are transmitted to the offspring. This is proof for the Lamarckian view of evolution – that characteristics acquired in a parents lifetime are indeed transmitted to their children.”

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